How the Wolves Whiffed on Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside

How Things Went Down

Here’s a little chronology for y’all. (Eds. Note: Warning: The following contains Wolvesian content that may not be suitable for perma-optimists.)

15 November: Wolves center Nikola Pekovic went down with an injured foot and wrist on 15 November.

24 November: The Miami Heat sign Hassan Whiteside.

29 November, the Timberwolves signed power forward Jeff Adrien to a 10-day contract. The scrappy Adrien played relatively well, and earned a second 10-day.

13 December: Heat assign Whiteside to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

15 December: Heat recall Whiteside from Sioux Falls. (Eds. Note: Did any PDW readers encounter Whiteside amid the Sioux Falls nightlife? I think he spent a Saturday night there.)

19 December: The Wolves take a big (salary) dump, trading Corey Brewer and injured center Ronny Turiaf to Houston for three-point specialist Troy Daniels. Daniels fails to crack the rotation. The Wolves are 2-17 since acquiring Daniels. In these 19 games, the Wolves lose by an average of (almost) double-figures (-9.45 point differential).

7 January: The Wolves waive Adrien rather than sign him for the rest of the season. Adrien averaged 12.6 minutes per game. Pekovic was injured throughout Adrien’s brief tenure in Minnesota. Gorgui Dieng was the team’s only true center healthy enough to play.

4 January: Whiteside records his first career double-double in a win over Brooklyn. The big had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.

8 January: Wolves sign Miroslav Raduljica to a 10-day contract. Raduljica signs a second 10-day on 19 January. Raduljica is averaging 4.6 minutes per game.

21 January: Pekovic makes his “don’t-call-it-a-comeback” comeback after more than two months on the sideline.

25 January: Whiteside records his first career triple-double–in points (14), rebounds (13), and blocks (12) in a Miami win over Chicago. The highlights look like this:

What Gives?

Do other Wolves fans wish Saunders had picked up Whiteside instead of Adrien/Raduljica? Whiteside is a rim protector and has legitimate NBA talent. His upside is probably north of DeAndre Jordan’s. The Wolves needed a center, but instead signed Jeff Adrien, a blue-collar power forward who generously provided unskilled labor during his two 10-days.

Other Wolves watchers speculate that Adrien was only signed because his agent is tight with Flip Saunders. Adrien played surprisingly well, but was too small to be a rim-protecting big. Apparently his agent’s relationship with Saunders was not strong enough to get him a guaranteed deal for the rest of the season.

No one knows why Flip signed Miroslav Raduljica. He isn’t playing, and Pekovic was due back soon.

The Wolves’ failure to sign Whiteside obviously looks like a mistake right now. You can’t say that he hasn’t been productive.

NBA Leaders in PER. (As of 27 January 2015.)

NBA Leaders in PER. (As of 27 January 2015.)

What to Take Away

An equally frustrating outcome is the unclear (and seemingly irrational) thought process behind the signings that they did make.

I’m not going to criticize Saunders too much for getting the last roster spot wrong. He has gotten a lot of other personnel moves right, starting with the Wiggins trade, and injuries have decimated his team. How many more wins would we have, had we signed Whiteside? Probably two or three, that’s my best guess. Not a big deal in a season that was lost almost from the start.

But the great teams seem to optimize every decision, big or little–that’s how they become great teams. As obstinate as Flip is about his vision and methods, here’s hoping that the old dog is learning new lessons about running an NBA franchise in 2015. After all, he’s going to be doing it for the foreseeable future.

Here’s some young Whiteside to groove to:

And for Whiteside junkies, here’s a day in the life:

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